SPAWNING

2022 FORT PECK

May 10th final update

After what seemed to be one of the windiest and coldest walleye spawns on record, the weather has returned to more average conditions for this time of year. Water surface temperatures ranged from 50 to 54 degrees during our last day of checking trap nets (April 30th) in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. These warm and stable temperatures really increased walleye spawning activity and condensed this season down to several days rather than several weeks.

A large portion of female walleye captured in our trap nets over the last few days have been ripe. In fact, we were able to bring in a total of 267 ripe female walleye from our trap nets over a three day period. However, numbers of spent female walleye have continued to become more prevalent while checking our trap nets indicating things are quickly winding down.

We’ve continued to hold an egg-take each day since the last update thanks to productive trap nets and ripe female walleye (some from the holding pens too). And they’ve been some impressive ones. These big egg-takes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday averaged 18.6 million more eggs each time. That quickly brought our total to approximately 96 million eggs for the season at the Fort Peck and Miles City fish hatcheries. This surpassed the 60 million goal, but additional eggs were collected in the event of poor hatching success.

On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff at Fort Peck, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with this year’s efforts. It was a long road, but we managed to get it done despite all the obstacles we encountered. I’d also like wish everyone the best of luck this season wherever they decide to wet a line!

April 25th

It’s been quite the roller coaster ride the past few days in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Another cold front pushed through the area on Saturday followed by gusty winds on Sunday. The mix of snow, sleet, and ice combined with 30-40 mph gusts dropped water temperatures back into the mid 30’s. However, we go a bit of a reprieve today (Monday) with calmer conditions and warmer temperatures reaching into the low 40’s.

The warmer temperatures have managed to trigger a bit walleye spawning.  Specifically, some large green female walleye. Male walleye continue to be present as well, but limited numbers of ripe female walleye are in the area due to cooler water temps. In addition, the green female are refusing to ripen up in the holding pens.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to gain a bit of momentum and hold two smaller egg collection efforts. We were able to collect around 2 million walleye eggs on Friday and another 7 million on Monday. This should put us somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 million eggs so far for the season. It looks like temperatures will remain warmer for a few more days so hopefully this give us another boost in walleye spawning activity!

April 21st

The weather continues to keep things interesting in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Gusty winds and cold water temperatures seem to be the norm during this walleye spawning season. It seems like the wind blows 20+ mph every day and yesterday we had gusts of 40 mph! Today we even had a little bit of ice in the Nelson Creek area. However, we have been back up and running since Monday and checking our nets on a daily basis (with the exception of few nets yesterday).

Water surface temperatures really haven’t warmed much since the last update. Today, water surface temperatures throughout our trap netting locations ranged from 36 to 40 degrees. We have noticed a few more walleye show up in our trap nets, but it hasn’t been a runaway by any means. It’s been a combination of few male walleye and green (holding eggs) walleye and an occasional ripe (releasing eggs) female walleye.

The good news is we were able to hold two egg collections today – one for northern pike and one for walleye. We were able to collect approximately 300,000 more northern pikes eggs and also a little over 3 million walleye eggs today. It isn’t a huge start to the season, but at least we’re finally on the board with some walleye eggs. We will continue to plug away in hopes of catching some more walleye, but the forecast for the upcoming weekend does not look promising with another storm system headed our way.

April 15th

It’s been quite the weather week on Fort Peck Reservoir along with much of Montana. Gusty winds, cold temperatures, and snow have really thrown a wrench into the walleye spawning operation and prevented us from making it out onto the water for a few days. Thankfully, our barges and holding pens remained secured to shore unlike last week. 

Water surface temperatures dropped to 36 degrees while checking our trap nets today and we even had to bust through a thin layer of ice. Because of the storm and drop in temperatures, spawning activity for walleye has really come to a halt. Very few fish have been cruising the shallow shorelines and into our trap nets.  Nighttime temperatures are also forecasted to get into the single digits tonight. These unfavorable conditions have caused us to pull our nets and momentarily hit the pause button for this weekend. No need to fight Mother Nature.

We were able to collect approximately 640,000 northern pikes eggs on Monday before the storm blew through the area. These pike eggs, which will later turn into fry and fingerlings, will be used to meet stocking requests for a handful of small waterbodies here in Montana. Plans are to resume trap netting on Monday so let’s hope weather conditions improve and temperatures start to warm.

Heath Headley

April 10th

The walleye trap netting and egg-taking operation has commenced on Fort Peck Reservoir once again. However, it’s been a challenging and bumpy (literally) start to the season. Compared to last year, lower reservoir elevations have caused us to relocate our operation further down the reservoir between Nelson and McGuire Creek area. High winds over the past week have prevented us from getting out on the water. In fact, our spawning barges and holding pens were pushed up onto shore during the ~60 mph gusts we experienced on Tuesday. These windy conditions have set us back a few days. The one bright spot is water temperatures have been somewhat warm – 43 to 44 degrees while checking our trap nets today.

These temperatures have triggered a few walleye to start cruising the shorelines. As with the beginning of every walleye spawn, male walleye are typically more abundant. That pattern is holding true. A majority of the walleye captured in the trap nets have been males, but we have captured a few green (not releasing eggs) females as well. We have yet to collect any walleye eggs since it’s early and water temperatures are relatively cool. Unfortunately, the weather forecast looks bleak with cold temperatures, high winds, and possible snow accumulations. I hate to say it, but this doesn’t bode well for walleye spawning activity for the upcoming week.

Heath Headley

Fisheries Biologist

Fisheries Division

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Region 6


                                                  

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